Friday, May 9, 2014

Tree Of Shadows

Tree Of Shadows

I dreamed we lived
in a tree of shadows, growing
leaves that were eyes
bugs that were leaves
of birds
or water
and each leaf was perfect
{as each smile was perfect
from you, my love.)

The eyes crawled, the insects
fluttered like lashes.
The leaves blurred, cooed,
curled around us,
the fingers of a god,
winged as an angel.
How did they become
fluff withering, 
and withered

The hand of god 
dropped me, a seed
a feather
from the highest branch,
a parasol of pulse and cry
blown on a wind dark
as heart's secret
(a bloodshadow heart, my love)
and laughter came

from where you watched,
your eye inside the twigs.

~May 2014

posted for     real toads

Fireblossom Friday
Challenge: Seraphine Louis

That indefatigable cultural explorer, Fireblossom, (Shay's Word Garden) has chosen the art of "naive" painter Seraphine Louis for us to write to today.  Louis began as a housecleaner, had a brief flaring career as a painter, then ended her days in a lunatic asylum's mass grave. This is what I got from reading her story and looking at her paintings. Full details (and lots more paintings) at the toads link above.

If you'd like to hear the poem read by the author, please click below:

Image: Unknown Title, by Seraphine Louis
Public domain via


  1. There's an almost undersea exhilaration to Seraphine's paintings, an explosion of condensed wonder: Love is that way too, or is in the mind's eye as it considers rapture ... No wonder the artist felt there was a guardian angel that prompted her painting, Beloved inside world, looking back. Off the canvas, from the page, maybe not so much? Or just harder to see? At least in this singing, its purely here, spoken in words the glorious world can recognize as its own. There's a philosopher of sorts who says humans were created so the universe could see itself; what is God without a mortal considering s/he/it, or love without the rapture of its beloved's gaze? Indeedy. Unearthly delights here in this eflin garden.

    1. I got some weird vibes from these paintings, B. Beautiful, bright, but it's as if there's something under the surface that is the opposite. I think you do peg something when you say the universe wants us to see it. There is something in these that wants us to see it, anyway, and I'm not sure I feel altogether comfortable inviting it in for a closer look. How horrible to have this gift and have it withdrawn, too--that's what she said in the madhouse, that it was all gone, so that is the betrayal(perhaps by that supposed angel of hers) that I am writing about here. Thanks for reading, as always.

  2. Hey Joy, I am on iPhone but do not see the reading. That is likely phone. The poem describes almost a gentle disillusionment or rather the disillusionment of a gentle soul. There is just such a palpable wonder in the beginning and great acceptance of things that actually are a bit frightening and then it moves into a kind of betrayal. So a real sadness -- I thought anyway. The lacing of all the fragments and living brings -- the eyes, the bugs, the leaves in a way that is not creepy crawly but simply accepting is beautiful. K. Manicddaily

    1. Thanks k. Hope things are evening out a bit for you. Best thoughts and vibes your way.

  3. This starts out as gently as a morning in Eden, and ends as wonderfully creepy as a late night exercise in psychological terror. The lover seems, at first, to be benevolent, gentle, a warm companion, but hidden in the motion of the living leaves is a shocking indifference and even malevolence. It's emotionally terrifying, because of the presumed safety that is shown to be anything but. So many illusions and shadows (as in your extremely apt title) where almost anything might be hiding, waiting, to send one down to the ground, or to the madhouse. Just perfectly done, Joy.

  4. I love the story you put to this amazing painting. I love the intimacy of the two participants. So tender and sad.

  5. there is a cool magic to this....them watching as the eye in the twigs as you pirouette down from the place you were dropped...a nice creation myth you have created in this.....

  6. "a parasol of pulse and cry".......a fantastic write.

  7. Totally beautiful! I get the joy and the withholding, the gift and the irony parsed out stanza by stanza. Thank you.

  8. This is a wonderful interpretation of her painting and life.

  9. "a parasol of pulse and cry" That's just stunning.

  10. I really enjoyed this audio recording. It pulled me further into the dream. Your second stanza with cooing, fluttered, blurred, and curled... terrific sensations. a seed/a feather/ twirling. The laughter brings an unexpected and bright dimension to the surface at the end--much like dreams do. fascinating images, Hedge.

    1. Thanks, Jane--haven't done any recording for awhile so I decided to speak this one--I wanted to give the feeling of fatigue that must have haunted this artist, painting nights after scrubbing the floors of the wealthy, working for so little--so its sort of low key. I also tried to make the end ambiguous, able to go either way, incongruously bright or dark, just like madness itself, and also like these paintings. Thanks again.

  11. Such a cool write, but there's something about the eyes that really freak me out.

  12. The eyes crawled, the insects
    fluttered like lashes...

    You have brought the surreal to your piece, with the inversion of the accepted views of plants, insects and an individuals relationship with the things that inspire.

    I was so looking forward to reading your response to this prompt, and the wait was worth it.

    1. Thanks Kerry--I know this style of painting is called primitivism, but it really does seem surreal in Seraphine's work, unlike Rousseau, etc. This painting in particular.

  13. Yes, this is surreal, an astute capture of Seraphine, but I feel it has a bit of all of us that create. We are forever seeing what isn't there. Is it functional madness? I wonder. I so enjoyed hearing you read it.

  14. "a parasol of pulse and cry
    blown on a wind dark" Wow! I cannot outdo Fireblossom's comment - I just nodded as I read through it. Your voice is perfectly soft and slow with this poem. This subject matter really had me googling and reading about her - perhaps it was a bit too close to my Asylum challenge because I am finding it very hard to "let her go". I find it fascinating to view her early work vs. her later pieces - they change - much like your poem!

  15. Haunting poem ... as is your voice reading.

  16. the insects
    fluttered like lashes

    this line just strikes me - visual, visceral, and foreshadowing the final couplet.

    I've been traveling; went to my aunt's funeral, saw cousins I hadn't seen in decades... and will visit folks before taking my own bow. hope yours is fruitful, Joy ~

  17. your reading is breathtaking, Joy!

    i agree with you that this painting is surreal. i chose to ignore the eye and focus on the brilliant colors, but your poem is aeons better than mine. love yours!

  18. This has such a surreal opulence, and this line is brilliant: "The eyes crawled, the insects
    fluttered like lashes." - such an interesting quality to bestow upon the eyes.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats